Cola nut: grow and properties guide

The exotic and tropical plants draw much attention. From the studies that are being done of many of them, the current drugs and the famous “superfoods” are being obtained. A plant that meets the conditions to be valued for its properties is known as the kola nut ( Cola acuminata ).

If its name does not sound familiar to you, you may need to associate it with Coca Cola, since it is part of this famous drink as an ingredient. This crop provides a large amount of caffeine and has stimulating medicinal properties. But not all its active principles end there, since there are several open scientific investigations that study its use for other applications in the framework of human health.

In this article we focus on talking about the tropical plant Kola nut or Sudan Kola, whose scientific name is Cola acuminata and belongs to the Malvaceae family ( Malvaceae ).


Within the genus Cola we find groups of trees from tropical environments of monoecious or dioecious type used to very humid environments and with very fertile soils rich in organic matter. This plant is used in many parts of the world for its stimulating capacity, since its fruits are consumed, which have a very interesting percentage of caffeine, in some cases greater than 2% of the weight of the fruit.

We usually find the kola nut plant ( Cola acuminata ) in the most tropical areas of Africa, also known as equatorial Africa, in countries such as Angola, Guinea, Zambia, Nigeria or Chad, among others.

In these countries, the use of the kola nut not only ends with the use of its seeds, but also the flexible and resistant wood is used for construction. The fruits offer a high energy intake and are also used in food.

If we want to establish certain associations within the world of botany, the Malvaceae family ( Malvaceae ) has several subgenera, where in one of them we find species related to cocoa (Theobroma), another tropical species with fruits that everyone knows of the cacao plant.


The kola nut is a small tree or highly branched shrub , formed by large leaves and bright green, with a certain thickness and resistance. In physical aspect it could have certain similarities to the common medlar , at least in terms of its leaves.

In the flowering season, it shows very showy and showy flowers, large in size and white or pastel shades. The fruits are protected in a fibrous dark green skin, where inside it houses between 5 and 10 edible seeds with active principles highly valued in pharmacology.

Despite living in warm environments, with high humidity and soils, a priori, rich in organic matter due to the continuous decomposition of litter, the kola nut is a slow-growing tree . The first fruits are obtained after several years of production.


The cola nut has its origin in Tropical Africa. However, given its nutritional and pharmacological interest, it has been exported to other tropical areas where it has been able to adapt perfectly. We are talking about exotic areas with warm temperatures almost all year round and high relative humidity, such as Brazil or different areas of the Caribbean.

Although its origin is African, today the kola nut is cultivated in many other tropical areas.

Its fruits do not provide much flavor or are really appetizing, but its digestive and stimulating properties of the nervous system were already known. That pushed its cultivation to expand from West Africa to  other tropical areas such as the Caribbean or Brazil. However, Nigeria, in Africa, is the world’s leading cola nut producing country.


  • Order:  Malvales
  • Family:  Malvaceae
  • Gender:  Tail
  • Species:  Cola acuminata

Known Common Names: Kola nut, Sudan nut,


Although there are not so many climatic zones that are well adapted to the cultivation of kola nut, we are going to give some characteristics of how to grow this plant that, in any case, needs warm temperatures throughout the year and high humidity.


The tropical conditions are ideal for the cultivation of cola nuts, with average temperatures throughout the year between 22-28ºC. However, for this it also needs high relative humidity and continuous periods of rain, with an average RH above 80%.

At the level of rainfall, it usually requires a minimum of 2500 mm per year, so that only tropical areas can achieve these figures for the optimal development of the kola nut. It is usually grown in wooded areas, in semi shade, or even directly in the sun, but it is important that under these conditions it is a humid climate.


The best soil for the development of the kola nut is usually slightly acidic, with a loamy or clayey texture, with good moisture and nutrient retention capacity. This type of soils usually accumulate significant levels of organic matter , which is why they are considered very fertile.

Even so, and under these optimal fertility conditions, the growth of the kola nut is slow.


The easiest way to get plants other than the one obtained is through the use of seeds . Their reproduction is not very complicated and they offer a good germination rate. For this, it is usually planted in pots with peat substrate, maintaining constant humidity and with warm temperatures at all times.

The germination period is usually between 15 and 21 days, and from the exit of the seedling, the care will be general. We will keep the humidity of the substrate constant, warm temperatures and exposure to semi-shade. When we have a kola nut plant with a minimum size of 30 cm, we can transplant it to the final place.

In addition to the multiplication by seeds, we can also obtain plants identical to the source of origin by cutting young stems with little suberity.


One of the parts most valued by many people is the stimulating properties that the fruits of the kola nut offer. And it is that its secret is based on its high caffeine content. And it is that if we make a comparison between the coffee seed (coffee tree) and the kola nut, the coffee seed only contributes 2% on average compared to a large 2.5-3% of caffeine in the Sudan nut .

Hence, in addition to its flavor, it is used in refreshing beverages that provide caffeine.

However, Cola acuminata  is not only cultivated for its biostimulant properties. In the seeds of this tropical tree we also find interesting active principles for pharmacology:

  • Stimulating principles: caffeine, theobromine and theophylline
  • Tannins: antioxidant and antimicrobial properties due to complexes such as potassium salts, flobaphenes, epicatechols and catechols.

Therefore, the main use of kola nut in food is based on its stimulating effect. This drink can replace coffee, but with a more progressive and smooth effect over time, with a diuretic and digestive effect.

Other uses of this exotic tree are in its antimicrobial potential, generally granted by the tannins present. These phenolic and flavonoid complexes are used as bacteriostatic and antimicrobial agents for application on the skin or directly topically, with several scientific investigations in full development.

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